Celebrating East African Writing!
So I have a new man in my life J. His name is Michael, he is five years old, can sing like an angel (do angels sing really well?), and can read like a child prodigy. I got a little embarrassed when I found myself deep in a philosophical debate with him over the character of Ichabod Crane in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
If you know a little about me, then you know The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was one of my all time favourites as a kid. I thought I knew every debate there was to the short story. Then little Mr. 5 years old told me:
“Ichabod was stupid. Hehehe. He let a ghost scare him away. That’s stupid. And then his friend was stolen from him cos he ran away. That’s stupid.”
Oh come on! You are five years old!
“Well, he was scared. People back then believed in ghosts.”
Really, so? What was Ichabod scared of? You meet a ghost of a long lost soul (or so you believe) on your way home from seeing your girl. So what? What makes you think that one has anything to do with the other? As far as I know, ghosts don’t usually need a reason to haunt you. At least that’s how American TV depicts it.
Besides, Ichabod’s headless horseman ghost did not really threaten Ichabod as Michael so astutely pointed out. For proof, read this short paragraph from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:
The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with terror. What was to be done? To turn and fly was now too late; and besides, what chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind? Summoning up, therefore, a show of courage, he demanded in stammering accents, “Who are you?” He received no reply. He repeated his demand in a still more agitated voice. Still there was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides of the inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with involuntary fervor into a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame. He made no offer of molestation or sociability, but kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging along on the blind side of old Gunpowder, who had now got over his fright and waywardness.
Oh yeah, the headless horseman was just about his own business, Ichabod just scared himself shitless, all by himself. But just to support Ichabod a little, he did observe that the horse man was carrying his head on his arm. And then the ghostly horseman seemed to kinda rush after Ichabod. But you know, ghosts are generally kinda busy trying to find ‘the door’ so it could have been that. Midnight haunting is scary dude.
“No. That was not a ghost. It was the other guy. The one who wanted to marry Ichabod’s girlfriend. He should have known that. Ichabod was stupid.”
Okay fine, kid, consensus, Ichabod was stupid! But what do you know about marrying and girlfriends?
“My mum is married to my dad. She is his girlfriend. He he.”
Ichabod was stupid. At one point, I thought he died for all his stupidity, in spite of the old farmer’s claim that Ichabod was alive and still stupid in another far off town. I don’t know which fate is worse; to be scared to death by your rival en el amor pretending to be headless horseman ghost, or to get the news that your el amor de su vida is marrying your rival, the same guy that you know deep in your heart scared the bejesus out of you and made you leave him all the cream and sugar.
That really is not the point in this little narration.
My point is; kids are smarter than we generally give them credit for. Michael loves to read, Michael loves to think about what he reads, Michael learns from what he reads. I can assure you, no one is going to scare him away when he find that special girl someday.
But how did he get there? His mum loves to read. She has books all over the house. She reads. She reads aloud to Michael. She reads and talks with Michael about books and stories and characters. Now Michael might not be gunning to be a writer, but from his discoveries in books, I know that someday when he finds what he wants to do with his life, he will know its possible no matter how high his dream is. He definitely ain’t an Ichabod Crane.
No, Michael is not a child prodigy, he might have a higher Intelligence Quotient, but a lot of his smarts come from the exposure to ideas, and colours, and images from beyond his little baby crib. His mum opened up the door to the universe by reading to him, and teaching him to love reading so he could continue opening other doors.
That was the point of last week’s read aloud kids campaign. To tell kids its great to enjoy reading, not just for mid term exams and finals, but also for the sheer fun of reading.
And also so you’ll know not to be an idiot like Ichabod Crane. He was such a loser * rolls eyes*.
That said, here are three short stories for you. Now they might not be stuff you read with your little Michaels and Jennifers, but let the love for reading, talking about the story, the writing and the philosophical debates behind written stories begin with you. Then you can go off and buy the Storyhippo series depending on your child’s age and get started on the ‘Reading is fun and cool and all sorts of adventures in between!’ journey.
You can showcase your work here by sending in a short piece 800 to 1000 words long to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week is blog expo week. I’ll go around the internet looking for short stories (true or fiction) on blogs by Kenyan writers and then we’ll showcase them here. If you think yours or a friend’s blog is cool, nominate it by sending your or the author’s details and blog url to email@example.com. Mark clearly in the message subject: Blog Nomination.
On the week of July 18th, 2011 we will run a short story contest here. You can get started on writing it:
Genre: Urban Fiction
Topic: No one told me about this when I was growing up…
Length: 1200 to 1800 words.
Deadline for submission: July 16th, 2011
Pri zes: 500 bob airtime and a Storymoja title, plus long term feature and author profile on the main Storymoja website.
Have a grand week!